Rugby Championship: Piri Weepu returns for All Blacks, Richie McCaw included
Last Updated: September 20, 2013 11:46am
Piru Weepu: Back in the New Zealand squad
New Zealand have recalled veteran scrum-half Piri Weepu and included captain Richie McCaw in their Rugby Championship squad for the trip to Argentina and South Africa.
Weepu was dropped ahead of the tournament, which the world champions lead with four wins out of four, but he has earned a recall after TJ Perenara broke his leg.
Skipper and flanker McCaw was expected to miss the rest of the championship with a knee injury but he will now travel in the hope of proving his fitness in time to face the Springboks on October 5.
McCaw will not be fit in time to lead his side against Argentina a week earlier while star fly-half Dan Carter misses out completely because of the shoulder injury he sustained in the 29-15 win over South Africa last weekend.
Carter was, as expected, replaced in the squad by Tom Taylor, who made his debut against Australia in Wellington last month.
Taylor joined Beauden Barrett and Aaron Cruden as the No 10s in the squad with the latter likely to start against Argentina in La Plata on September 28 after recovering from a knee injury of his own.
Weepu's omission from the initial squad had some critics writing off his Test career, particularly after coach Steve Hansen said he was struggling to keep up with the pace of the game he wanted the All Blacks to play.
However, Hansen revealed he had seen improvement in the No 9's game in the National Provincial Championship with Auckland and said: "TJ has suffered a stress fracture in his lower left leg and is expected to be out of rugby for at least six weeks and, therefore, will miss the rest of the Rugby Championship.
"We have selected Piri as a replacement for two reasons: one, given the environments we are going into, it would be unfair to bring in a novice halfback; and secondly, we have also seen advances in his game in the areas we asked him to improve in."
McCaw, who injured his knee when prop Charlie Faumuina landed on his left leg in last month's 28-13 victory over Argentina, will be given every chance to prove his fitness for the match against South Africa at Ellis Park.
"With Richie, we believe that the best chance of having him available to play against South Africa is by having him travel with the squad and getting 'hands-on' treatment from the All Blacks medical staff," Hansen added.
If the 32-year-old fails in his bid to play his 120th Test match, Matt Todd, who made his debut against France in June, will join the squad in South Africa.
Forwards: Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Brodie Retallick, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Kieran Read.
Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Tom Taylor, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.
You can watch both South Africa v New Zealand and Argentina v New Zealand on Sky Sports 2 HD